Dedicated to those who've actually read the whole thing - we can't believe we did it, nor that you did....
It was a cold and stormy day. Very cold. And stormy. And day. The coldest and stormiest day of the year, which wasn't saying much, as it was only the tenth of January.
Of course - there's no snow on the ground. But the city is shrouded in fog. The densest, thickest, grayest fog that any of them had ever seen. The kind of freezing fog that made it almost impossible to drive, the kind that hit the windshield and coated it with an instant sheet of ice.
For once they weren't out in the weather...nope, they were safe and sound inside the loft.
Jim and Blair were just sitting down to breakfast. They weren't looking forward to the trip in to the station, and even more, they were each missing their spirit animals...it just wasn't the same without them there.
"Man, it's just way too quiet lately," commented Blair as he raised a slice of toasted bagel to his mouth.
"Yeah," Jim agreed, as he shoveled a forkful of eggs into his mouth.
Blair sat back, gently laying his half-eaten bagel on his plate. "I miss them."
"No tummy rubs..."
"No purring all night to lull me to sleep..."
"No tail-wagging when I come in..."
"No playful nipping at my fingers..."
"No middle of the night howling at the moon..."
"No nose prints on the balcony door..."
"No lick marks in the ice cream..."
"No fur on the sofa..."
"No icy-cold noses touching exposed skin..."
"No face washes..."
"No being pounced out of a sound sleep..."
"No mooching in the kitchen while making dinner..."
"No shredding of the furniture..."
"No playing tug-o-war with my socks..."
"No midnight games of tag through the loft..."
"Ah, those were the days," they chorused, sadly.
Jim stopped eating and put his fork down and pushed his plate away. Looking to Blair hopefully, he asked, "Do you think they'll come home?"
Both men sighed and rose, dumping their unfinished breakfasts in the trash. While Jim washed the dishes, Blair took out the trash.
The drive in to the station was horrendous. Luckily, most people were smart enough to call in to work and stay home, but not them, oh, no. They were dedicated... besides, it just wasn't the same at home without their furry faced companions.
Having made it successfully into the station, they headed upstairs to their desks. Settling in at their adjoining desks, they started in on the unending pile of paperwork. Grateful to be able to be indoors on such an awful day.
It was quiet. Almost too quiet in Cascade.
Could it be the quiet before the storm, non-meteorologically speaking? No. It was so treacherous outside, that even the criminals were staying indoors, where they were warm and dry.
Jim was resplendent in khaki Bermuda shorts, his blue and green Hawaiian shirt in sharp counterpoint to his orange and yellow Rush tie and the straw boater atop his head.
Blair, wearing a parka over his flannel shirt and jeans, rubbed his mittened hands together and wished he could build a bonfire in the middle of the bullpen with the large stack of files that awaited his perusal. He glared at his partner, who never seemed to notice the cold.
Jim's head shot up, his gaze focusing unerringly on the captain's office. His sensitive olfactory senses informed him that the boss had just put on a fresh pot of coffee....and it wasn't any of that flavored crap he usually favored. Oh, no, it was the good stuff, Moka Java...now, how to get some for himself?
Putting on his best covert-ops face, Jim tiptoed toward the captain's office. Glancing surreptitiously around, he eased the door open, his empty and hopeful coffee cup held tightly in one hand.
"Hey, man, where are you going?!" Blair called.
"Shhh!" Jim whispered loudly, glaring a glare that would cut sheet metal and motioning for his partner to keep quiet.
"Get me some while you're at it, will you, Jim?" Blair called back, ignoring Jim's motions to keep quiet and rushing to his side to hand him his cup as well.
Carefully balancing two coffee cups in one hand, Jim carefully and soundlessly opened the door, and determined the quickest, shortest, quietest route to the coffee maker. With one fast and final look around, he slipped through the narrow opening. Moving silently, he slipped like a loudly colored shadow around the desk to the coffee pot while Simon remained oblivious to his presence.
Simon watched his detective's stealthy maneuvering around the office, said nothing as Jim filled two cups with his coffee and as he cautiously snuck back towards the door, finally looked up. Just as Jim reached for the doorknob, Simon spoke up. "Is there something you wanted, detective?"
"Uh, yeah, got any cream and sugar?"
"I'll give you cream and sugar," Simon grumbled, watching as the detective successfully made his escape.
Rising to his feet, Simon followed and, just as Jim prepared to set the cups down, bellowed, "Ellison!"
Jim stopped and turned, holding both of the full cups in his left hand. Spotting the sequined red, white, and blue bowtie his gaze was transfixed. His breathing slowed as his right hand raised to his brow.
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America," Jim began solemnly.
"What's going on?" Rafe whispered, coming over.
"And to the republic for which it stands," Jim continued.
Exchanging a confused look, Simon and Blair moved closer to the patriotic Sentinel. "Uh, Jim?"
"One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all," Jim finished smoothly before turning around. "Yeah, Chief?"
Seeing that his sentinel was back with them, Blair simply said, "Never mind."
Jim turned to set the coffee cups down, but his gaze was once more trapped by the sparkling sequins of Simon's tie. Straightening once more to attention, he began to sing. "Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed, at the twilight's last gleaming..."
All eyes were torn between the spectacle before them, and the precariously balanced coffee cups, threatening to spill their contents at any moment.
"...Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, o'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming. And the rocket's red glare..." Jim's voice miraculously managed not to crack on the high note, "...The bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there, Oh say, does that star spangled banner yet wave? Oe'r the land of the free..." unfortunately, on the highest note, his voice cracked like a pubescent boy's, "...And the home of the brave," he finished.
Throughout his rendition of the national anthem, only a single drop of the precious Moka Java was lost much to everyone's amazement.
Breathing a sigh of relief as the two filled-to-the-brim coffee cups managed to find their way to the desk top safely, Blair looked around the room to find the cause of Jim's zoning. Eventually, Blair's eyes lit on Simon's tie and he realized what had happened. Blair quickly ripped the tie off Simon's shirt front, tearing the shirt in the process, and prevented a third zone out along with saving everyone's ears from another assault.
Leaning close, Blair hissed at the captain. "Idiot! You should know better than to wear anything that sparkles!" he chastised, punching the tall captain in the arm.
"Owwwww!" Simon cried out in pain, rubbing the owie, "You never told me that before," he whined.
"Come on, man! You're the captain! You should have known!"
"How could I have? You never told me, you should have told me."
"It's not my fault," Simon insisted. Turning his glare on the smaller man, he snarled, "It's your fault. You should have told me!"
Just then, Jim's head shot up, his nose almost twitching as he sniffed hopefully. Ignoring the argument raging behind him, Jim smiled as Henri and Joel entered the bullpen, the donut cart following behind them.
Rubbing his hands together with glee, Jim dove toward the donut cart, snapping up two prune danish for himself. Then the fragrant aroma of freshly-made buttermilk donuts filled Jim's nose as his eyes zeroed in on the tasty treat. His all-time favorite! With a delighted giggle, he scooped up half a dozen, handing the cart attendant a ten dollar bill.
Blair turned at the sound of Jim's laughter, and joyfully headed for the donut cart, taking off his bright red mittens with the little carrot-nosed snowmen on the back to grab a buttermilk donut for himself.
Just then, from the other side of the room, came a question. "Hey guys, does anyone know how long it takes for a cat to grow up? Isn't it normally almost a year?"
As Jim choked on his donut, Blair looked up guiltily, remembering the 'kitten' that Joel had taken home with him the week before. "Uh, a year and a half, actually. Why?" he asked, in his most innocent voice.
"How about a puppy to a dog?" chimed in Henri.
"About the same, I think," Jim mumbled through a mouth full of danish, exchanging guilty looks with his partner..
"I'm not sure I want to even think what this kitten is going to look like in a year's time. He's really starting to get big," Joel explained.
Looking guiltily at Jim and Blair, Simon said, "Uh, Joel? Just how big is that kitten?"
"It takes up half the sofa right now. When he's on it, there's hardly any room for anyone else," Joel replied. "But at least he doesn't shred the furniture or curtains. He's really sweet, but he's so big!"
"And the puppy is growing at about the same rate. It's weird, man. What were you feeding those things?"
"Uh, feeding?" Simon asked, at a loss. "Canned milk, because they were so little."
"Well, they're not so little now!" Henri crowed. "Here, look at these pictures I took," he invited, reaching for the photographs on his desk and passing them around to both interested and disinterested parties.
"Man, that's a puppy?" Rafe asked in amazement. "Looks like a half-grown wolf to me."
Blair choked on the buttermilk donut he pilfered from Jim. Jim soundly pounded his friend on the back before he, Blair, and Simon exchanged worried looks.
Simon, thinking fast, said, "Well, I did find them in the street. So there's no knowing what they are, or where they came from," he finished, casting a smug grin at Jim and Blair.
"Well, whatever he is, he's a great dog," Henri insisted. "He can fetch, and man, let the baby take one footstep towards the stove, and he's right there, herding her back to where she belongs."
Simon cast a smirking glance at Jim and Blair, but upon seeing their devastated expressions, decided not to tease them about the animals, in fact, he felt a bit badly about it now.
Moving, he felt an odd draft. Looking down, he realized that his silk dress shirt had been shredded from his body when Blair had snatched his tie away.
"Sandburg," he growled. "Look what you did to my shirt! And give me back my tie!" he bellowed, snatching the spangled object back from Blair.
"Nice tie," Jim commented, swallowing another bite of donut.
"Will you hide that thing!" Blair scolded as Jim's eyes began to glaze over.
"Oh, sorry," Simon replied.
"You should be sorry," Blair muttered, deflecting the Sentinel's attention by handing him another prune danish.
"So, what are you going to do about those...animals?" Simon whispered.
Jim and Blair looked sadly at him. "Nothing." They chorused, softly. "We can't exactly ask for them back, you know?" Blair continued, letting out a deep sigh as his big blue eyes filled with tears.
Jim's sad sniff provided counterpoint to the tears glistening in his eyes.
Simon glanced over at Joel and Henri, where they were sharing the pictures of their pets. Sighing, he patted Jim and Blair on the shoulder and turned back towards his office, holding the tattered remains of his shirt together with one hand. He sighed again as he closed the door behind him, hoping the spare purple and yellow striped shirt he had would go with his black suit.
Turning back to their desks, Jim and Blair went back to work. For the rest of the day, they were subdued, speaking only when spoken to, and seemingly unable to accomplish much of anything. Seeing how unhappy they were, Simon sent them home a bit early.
The trip home was made in silence, neither man interested in conversation; each one berating himself about the loss of their spirit guides.
Arriving at the loft, they dragged themselves up the stairs and entered. Jim was so distraught that he didn't even notice when his jacket fell from the hook. Shuffling into the living room, the two men slumped down onto the couch.
"Hey, Jim? How about a beer?"
"Sounds good, thanks."
They sat quietly for a minute, then Jim glanced over to his roommate, "I thought you were getting us some beer?"
"No, I asked you for one."
"No you didn't, you offered to get us a beer."
"Nice try," Blair intoned, carefully enunciating each word as he continued, "I suggested we have a beer. No mention was made of who should get it."
"Fine." Jim snarled, getting up.
"Fine," Blair repeated.
Jim made his way to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and got out a bottle. Opening it, he went back into the living room.
"Where's mine?" Blair asked, looking up.
"Get your own."
"You know, man. There are times you can be a real &(*%)#(, Jim!"
Jim smirked. "Takes one to know one."
"Takes one to know one," Blair singsonged in rude mimicry of his friend.
"What's wrong with you, Sandburg?" Jim snarled.
"Nothing," Blair snarled back. Rising, he stomped into the kitchen to fetch his own beer, slamming the refrigerator door in the process.
"Sandburg," Jim said, warningly.
"You know, you've been nothing but a jerk since...since..." Blair trailed off to a stop. "Oh, man. I miss them, Jim!" he wailed.
"I do, too!" Jim wailed back.
From up in Jim's loft bedroom, two dark figures peered down through the railings. Comfortably ensconced on the bed, the black jaguar and the wolf watched the goings on below.
Turning to wink at the wolf, the panther grinned. "Be it ever so humble there's no place like home," he said, tapping his front paws together like Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.
The laughing wolf replied, "What would those two do without us?"
Early the next morning...
Jim had had a hard time getting to sleep. But now that it was almost time time to get up, he was sleeping soundly. He turned, rising slightly to pound his pillow, still sleeping deeply, but not well.
With a soft whimper, he settled back down. Then, as he tossed and turned, a sound came to him. A soft rumbling sound, deep pitched and soothing. A faint smile graced his lips as he reached out in his sleep to scratch the ears of his spirit guide who stretched out beside him, snuggling close.
Meanwhile, downstairs, Blair too was tossing and turning. At least, he was until a cold wet nose was stuck in his ear and a snort woke him up. First in fear, he tried to scoot back but then recognized his spirit guide grinning at him. "You came back!" Blair whispered, throwing his arms around the animal.
The wolf ducked away from Blair's embrace and snatched at the blankets, wanting to play tug-o-war. Blair, laughing in joy, began to tug back. When the wolf pulled him out of bed, he landed on his butt on the floor, knocking his nightstand over. His furry buddy quickly came over to see if he was alright, licking Blair's face and whining an apology.
Jim awoke to the noise. He started up, only to realize that he was pinned beneath a warm, furry weight. His eyes instantly adjusted to the lack of light and he gazed into the eyes of his spirit guide, who seemed to suddenly decide he needed a good face washing.
Noticing that the noise from below was not accompanied by a scream, but a yelp and a giggle or two, he realized that it was only Blair and the wolf. Jim laughed and hugged the big cat, then lay still to allow the rough tongue to bathe his face to the animal's content.
As the sun began to come up on yet another cold and stormy day, the soft light streaming through the windows found our heroes snuggled with their spirit guides, deeply, soundly, contentedly, asleep.